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Neuroendocrinology. 1999 Aug;70(2):128-36.

Restricted presence of the growth hormone-releasing hormone receptor to somatotropes in rat and human pituitaries.

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  • 1CNRS UMR 5578, Universit√© Lyon-I, Villeurbanne, France.


Specific binding of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) to its plasma membrane receptor represents the first step of cellular signals leading to exocytotic GH secretion in the anterior pituitary. The GHRH receptor (GHRH-R) has been cloned and belongs to the secretin/glucagon/vasoactive intestinal peptide subfamilly of G-protein-coupled receptors. To study its characteristics in rat and human pituitaries and examine its cellular and subcellular localization, a site-directed polyclonal antibody recognizing the C-terminal portion 392-404 of the rat and human GHRH-R was used. Immunohistochemistry was performed on paraffin-embedded pituitary sections while ultrastructural immunocytology was done on frozen and Lowicryl-resin-embedded ultrathin sections. GHRH-R-like immunoreactivity was restricted to somatotropes and colocalized with GH in both rat and human tissues. No signal was detected in gonadotropes, lactotropes, corticotropes and thyrotropes. At the subcellular level, gold particles were associated with the plasma membrane (observed on ultrathin frozen sections), secretory granule membrane, cytoplasmic matrix, nuclear membrane and nuclear matrix. In the nucleus, gold particles were mainly observed at the junction between eu- and heterochromatin. The highest density of labeling was observed in the cytoplasm (55 vs. 45% in the nucleus), mainly in secretory granules (59% of cytoplasmic labeling) and the plasma membrane. These results support the hypothesis that GHRH-mediated actions in the pituitary are specific to somatotropes and that GHRH-R isoforms and/or ligand-receptor complexes are involved in intracellular trafficking, recycling processes and nuclear functions.

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